Syllabus bites: Visual literacy

Visual texts

What are visual texts?

Visual texts range from a photograph or illustration in a print magazine to the visual components of multimodal texts.

The visual language choices and conventions in texts communicate and shape meaning in a range of contexts.

In studying visual texts, students use the metalanguage of visual texts to describe, discuss and evaluate how they communicate meaning to the audience.

Responding to visual texts

Responding to visual texts and visual components of multimodal texts requires the same approach as when responding to written and spoken texts. Key questions focus on the how the meaning is shaped and communicated using the language of visual forms, features and techniques.

Graphic title: A Guide to responding to visual texts

Each tab in this guide contains key questions to consider when analysing visual texts. Use it to complete the task in the final tab.

What is the visual text?

  • Type: advertisement, magazine cover, poster, news photograph

  • Mode: paper, electronic, billboard

  • Source: print or electronic publication

  • Main purpose: inform, persuade, entertain

  • Subject matter: What is it about?

  • Audience: Who is the targeted or intended audience?

  • Date: When was the text composed?

  • Composer(s): news photographer, creative director, graphic designer

  • Context: personal, social, historical, cultural, workplace

How is the visual text constructed?

  • Structure / layout / form

  • What conventions are employed?

  • Visual components: photographs, illustrations, images, animations

  • Techniques: line, shape, space, movement, perspective, composition, framing, juxtaposition, appropriation

Why did the composer construct the visual text this way?

  • What choices did the composer make, and why?

  • What tone and style elements are used, and why?

  • How do the visual elements relate to the target audience? – structure, form, appropriate, intertextuality, movement

How effective is the visual text?

  • How do the visual elements combine to give meaning?

  • How do the visual elements combine with other communication modes e.g. words, images and audio?

  • Do you think it is effective?

How does it achieve its purpose and appeal to its target audience?

  • What is your evaluation of this visual text?

  • What did you like/dislike about this text?

  • How did this text make you react?

  • How appropriate is the style of this text?

Visual texts are often associated and combined with audio, words and other design features. Complex visual and multimodal texts, such as feature movies, documentaries and TV programs for a global audience require an understanding of the language of how we read the visual.

Visual text task

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Watch this video on a study about risks to teenagers due to alcohol consumption and comment on the effectiveness of the visuals in the video on delivering its message.